12 Ways to Involve Your Kids in the Kitchen
In today’s fast-paced world, finding meaningful activities that engage and educate can often feel challenging. The kitchen, however, provides a perfect setting for my kids to explore their creativity, learn essential life skills, and hopefully develop a love for food and nutrition. Getting our kids in the kitchen not only helps them understand the value of healthy eating but also creates lasting memories and strengthens family bonds.
If you’re wondering how to get your little ones excited about culinary adventures, look no further! In this blog post, we will explore twelve fun ways to get your kiddos involved in the kitchen. From simple tasks to more advanced cooking techniques, these activities will make cooking a delightful and educational experience for both you and your children.
The Benefits of Involving Kids in the Kitchen
Enhanced Life Skills: Engaging children in meal planning, food prep, and clean-up equips them with valuable life skills they will carry throughout their lives. They learn about nutrition, portion control, and the importance of balanced meals. Instead of trying to teach them these skills later in life, I prefer to integrate them into our daily lives.
Confidence and Independence: Allowing kids to take ownership of kitchen tasks boosts their self-esteem and instills a sense of independence. They learn to make decisions, follow recipes, and problem-solve. The other day Chulengo came upstairs with a milk mustache, and I asked if he poured himself a glass of milk, to which he said yes. I was so proud he felt confident to pour his own milk without asking.
Bonding and Quality Time: Cooking together allows families to bond and spend quality time. It encourages communication, teamwork, and shared experiences. We chat a lot in the kitchen about things we like and don’t like, the characteristics of the food we prepare, and daily life. Some of my favorite memories are from our time in the kitchen.
Expanded Palates: When children actively participate in meal planning and preparation, they become more open to new foods and flavors. It broadens their culinary horizons and encourages healthier eating habits. And with picky eaters, this has made all of the difference. I have removed the pressure to try new foods and instead expose them to the foods while preparing, which has started working in expanding their palates. I serve a salad with most meals. It took Chulengo until he was four years old to voluntarily eat the salad on his plate.
Getting Started: Meal Planning
Involve the Kids: Include children in meal planning by asking for their input. Let them choose a recipe or suggest their favorite dishes. Both boys typically ask for my mom’s spaghetti sauce, so I’ve been getting creative in how to serve it to expose them to new dishes. Instead of spaghetti, I’ve made chicken parmesan, meatballs, and lasagna.
Teach about Nutrition: Discuss the importance of a balanced diet and involve kids in selecting various ingredients from different food groups. It’s important to me that each meal has a protein, a carb, and a fat, so I make sure to point out which is each as we plan a meal. I also ensure that fruits and vegetables are available at each meal and throughout the day.
Create a Weekly Menu: Together with your children, create a weekly menu that covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Display it prominently in the kitchen. I started by including them in planning dinners for now, as their attention spans usually last through about seven meals.
Make a Shopping List: Engage kids in writing a shopping list based on the ingredients needed for the planned meals. Encourage them to check the pantry and fridge for items already available. I always give kiddos my shopping list at the store too. I ask Chulengo to read the list to me as we go shopping.
Food Prep: Fun and Educational
Age-Appropriate Tasks: Assign tasks suitable for your child’s age and skill level. Younger children can wash vegetables or tear lettuce, while older ones can chop or measure ingredients. Chulengo is learning to cut produce, and Bambino helps mix things.
Teach Prepping and Cooking Techniques: Demonstrate and explain various cooking techniques, such as sautéing, baking, or grilling. Let them experience hands-on learning under your guidance. I’ve also introduced the boys to the air fryer, crockpot, and Instapot.
Explore New Ingredients: I encourage our kids to explore and learn about different fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Involve them in washing, peeling, or seasoning ingredients. The other day, Bambino tried onion powder and loved it. He kept asking me to shake it in his hand so he could lick it off. Also, the boys love preparing and mixing our daily salad, improving exposure. I try to switch ingredients regularly.
Cooking Safety: Teach your kids about kitchen safety rules, including the proper use of knives, handling hot objects, and hygiene practices. When I get something out of the oven, I ask one of them to get the pot holders for me and put them on my hands. And every time they lick their hands, we wash our hands.
Clean-Up Time: Responsibility and Teamwork
Share the Responsibility: Assign age-appropriate clean-up tasks to children. This can include washing dishes, wiping countertops, or sweeping the floor. My 6-year-old helps load the dishwasher. My 4-year-old helps clear the table.
Reinforce Hygiene: Emphasize the importance of cleaning utensils, cutting boards, and surfaces to prevent cross-contamination. To help wash dishes, I’ve given the boys a scrubber brush that automatically dispenses soap. I’ve also taught Chulengo how to load the dishwasher properly to make sure everything gets properly sanitized.
Make it Fun: Play upbeat music, engage in conversations, or turn cleaning into a game to make it an enjoyable experience. Our favorite songs include Africa by Toto and Rock and Roll by Gary Glitter.
Express Gratitude: Acknowledge and appreciate your children’s efforts in the kitchen. Encourage them to take pride in their contribution to meal preparation. “I am so proud of you” and “Thank you for all your help” are common phrases in our kitchen. The more confident they are in their kitchen skills, the more willing they are to join me.
Engaging children in meal planning, food prep, and clean-up is a wonderful way to empower them with valuable life skills and cultivate their love for cooking. Beyond the practical benefits, such as enhanced nutrition and expanded palates, it provides bonding and quality time as a family. Involving kids in the kitchen teaches them about food and instills confidence, independence, and a sense of accomplishment.
So, let’s embrace the joy of cooking together and watch our young chefs shine as they take their place in the kitchen, creating delicious meals and memories that will last a lifetime.